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ISSUE 121 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/30/2007

Student composers rebel at 'Fresh Ink'

By Bryan Runck
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 30, 2007

Composition recitals often entail 16 new pieces. After 2.5 hours of "Fresh Ink" late in the evening, even the most attentive audience members find themselves being prodded by a neighbor to wake up.

However, this was not the case this time. In under an hour, money was scattered about the stage (twice), and an interesting thing happened to a violin -- but more on that later.

The "Fresh Ink" composition recital last Monday was charged with social commentary and insights into the natural world. The recital began with "Rolling Hills, Rolling Thunder" by Carl Haskins '09 as a musical appetizer for listeners. According to Haskins, the piece explored "the range and sounds of the string bass" while tonally portraying a storm intruding on the placid pastoral scene of the introduction via metrical interruptions.

After priming the listener's palates, "Fresh Ink" took its first move towards social commentary with "A Poor Man's Change" by Whit Noble 08. The piece expresses "the longing of the poor for comfort" with borrowed harmonies from Henry Cowell and the eerie sound of change dropping into a glass jar. At the end of the piece, the change dropped into the jar is dumped onto the stage to leave the audience with the feeling of emotional chaos.

Next, Jacob Dalager '09 stole the night's attention with performers wearing ski masks and a smashing finale. "Para todos todo, para nosotros nada" screams revolution through its five movements: "E", "Z", "L", "N" and "¡Ya Basta!." "E" for Ejército, the march of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), which was established in 1994 in Chiapas, Mexico, begins the piece with a burning first violin melody over the rest of the quartet.

The second movement, "Z" for Zapatista, represents the community's desire for resistance by the players switching instruments. This movement brings an audience intimately into contact with the piece as they laugh during each switch. The performers play the movement on open strings "to demonstrate the effectiveness and beauty of simplicity" in revolution.

"L" for Liberación contrasts the fuller sounds of the first and second movement with unsettling, alternating harmonics. The Zapatista Hymn in "N" for Nacional brings a merry-go-round feel to the stage that contrasts the harshness of the rest of the piece and opens the audiences ears in preparation for the finale.

"¡Ya Basta!" finishes the piece with "a call for change." The music of this last movement is far overshadowed by the performance aspect. Midway through the piece, the music halts. The violist takes the first violinist's bow, walks to the side of the stage and proceeds to pick up a black violin with a red star on the back -- the Symbol of the EZLN. On the other side of the violin is a dollar sign.

After playing for a short while, the performer, still in a black ski mask, takes the violin and smashes it on stage like a heavy metal guitarist. Pieces of the violin scatter about the stage as money that was hidden inside floats above the destruction. The rest of the performers proceed to stomp and destroy what little is left of the violin. After the performance ended, the audience clapped loudly and laughed with vocal gestures of astonishment. One student simply commented: "Holy crap, are you serious?"

The last piece, by Paul Heggeseth '08 came back to themes of nature with his electotronica piece "And Deeper." The piece addresses issues "between the natural world and the human world" through interposing rain forest sounds with machine gun fire and clips from Mahler's third symphony. With the lights turned down low, listening to an electronic piece over a P.A. system is almost movie-like. It's easy for a listener to sit back and just listen as opposed to focusing on the visual aspect of a more traditional performance.

The general reaction after "Fresh Ink" was positive. "I enjoy attending composition recitals because of their laid back atmosphere," Sarah Johnson '08 said.

And these new ideas were done justice by not over-saturating the audience with material. The recital felt cohesive and rounded, which was unexpected and appreciated. And the extra excitement of a violin being smashed didn't hurt any either.

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